Heart of stone

In 1 Kings 5-8, the history is told of how Solomon built the temple “for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel” (1 Kings 8:20). In his prayer of dedication, Solomon acknowledges what we all think of when we hear that a physical structure was constructed for the purpose of God to dwell in it when he says, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). So that fact aside, reading about how much work went into the preparations, building, and furnishing of this temple and all it encompasses, can be humbling as we consider the extreme effort put forth by man to offer the ark of the Lord’s covenant a place to reside besides the mobile tents it had been in the past. It took seven years, from start to finish, to complete (1 Kings 6:38). It recruited thousands of forced laborers to retrieve the quarry stone and timbers used in construction (1 Kings 5:13-18). Although stone was used for its foundation and outer walls, “The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. Everything was cedar; no stone was to be seen” (1 Kings 6:18). That is, until the ark of the Lord’s covenant was brought into the Most Holy Place and, in it, contained “nothing except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt” (1 Kings 8:9).

The only stone inside the temple was these tablets, written by the hand of God on Mount Sinai, sharing with His people how they can abide in Him by obeying His laws and commands. God tells Solomon, after He consecrates the temple, “My eyes and my heart will always be there” (1 Kings 9:3). Part of His heart was recorded on stone. The only stone within the walls of the temple and so it should be, standing alone as a sign of how dear to God it is that we follow His heart. The commandments written on these stone tablets signify much to us still today, that God’s eyes are on our hearts. Watching every outflowing move we make, seeing all of our deepest desires, but making us well aware of, as He did Solomon, that walking before Him in integrity of heart and uprightness involves doing what He commands by observing His decrees and laws (1 Kings 9:4). This is a heavy weight as we attempt to do His will, with integrity of heart and uprightness.

Integrity is a word that gets tossed around frequently in my mind. It’s defined as “the quality of being honest and adhering to strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” When this definition is combined with the verse above, we can assume that our morality and principles are to be based on what Scripture commands of us to reach the pinnacle of integrity in the eyes of God, thereby exhibiting moral uprightness by His standards. The problem with us is, as God’s heart was written in stone, our hearts can be as hard as stone. At times, pervious to the exterior influences that can seep in and, many times, impervious to allowing His commandments to saturate our hard hearts so that obedience to Him is all but a wasted effort. So many boundaries to walk within, so many laws to abide by, so many commandments to obey; so, why bother, especially, since we know all too well that Jesus Christ was given as the sacrifice to pay the penalties of our breached disobedience?

We bother because He bothered. God bothered to give us these boundary lines and, although we have freedom in Christ, we must also give credence to what He says about His law in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” So, even though Christ fulfilled all the holiness and uprightness that God decreed in days past, He was intentional by stressing that abolishment of God’s law was not His purpose. We couldn’t walk consistently with God’s view of uprightness, but is moving forward in integrity of heart a plausible course for us wretched sinners?

Why, yes, sure it is. Even when our hearts are hardened, or in the process of hardening to stone, we can still acknowledge that we’re denying our obedience to Him because…well, we don’t want to follow what He says is right; we want to follow what we say is. After all, we don’t have to, thanks to the Christ who did it for us. If that doesn’t sound like a logical line of thought, it’s because it’s not. That may be integrity as far as the honesty part of the definition, but it is seriously lacking in the heart department. Been there, done that, will likely go there and do it again. It isn’t only our hearts that are to be considered as we walk, but God’s heart. Remember where He said His heart and eyes will be forever? In the temple. Not necessarily the earthly structure back in Solomon’s time, but in us as the Holy Spirit dwells in believers. His heart is to have our heart devoted to Him. He bothered to share with believers the boundaries His eyes see as upright as He wrote them in stone. Let our hearts not be hard as stone, but instead, find the forever worth of all of His words, whether those on the tablets laid in the ark, or those in the holy canon of Scripture.

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